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When I corrected my friend's grammar in a comment he said

Thanks for correcting me. I guess I need some grammar lessons despite studying for CPA.

I think he was supposed to say besides, not despite.

Grammar has nothing to do with CPA (certified public accounting) as Despite would mean that studying cpa wasn't enough to prevent him from making some mistake that needed to be corrected,

and Besides would simply mean

in addition to studying for CPA I need some grammar lessons

Despite makes sense too, but the idea is off as CPA has nothing to do with grammar

But wait. What if he meant I guess I need some grammar lessons despite being involved in a process that requires an advanced understanding of grammar clearly an advanced understanding of grammar is required to understand the questions in the exam.

hey but hasn't it got ambiguous?

now technically besides and despite work the same way in this sentence

Damn I'm confused

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The construction of the sentence is fine, and despite isn't breaking any rules. But, that aside, you're right in thinking that it may not be the best word choice. (On reading it, I was immediately puzzled for the same reason.)

While there is nothing wrong with the syntax, I would likely likely change it based on semantics.

Or, supply additional context:

I guess I need some grammar lessons despite studying for a CPA exam that requires good grammar.

Also note that simply changing the word from despite to besides may not, on its own, be enough to remove the sentence's awkwardness.

If changing the word, I would emphasize it to draw explicit reference to the fact that simply studying for the CPA exam isn't sufficient to pass it:

I guess I need some grammar lessons besides just studying for my CPA.

Finally, things that seem awkward or that can be misunderstood when read, can be much clearer when communicated in speech. Although I've been analyzing this sentence, if I heard it spoken exactly as originally written, and especially if used in the context of a conversation, I would likely have no problem with it at all.

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  • I'm thinking "despite" here doesn't really mean "even though I should know grammar well from studying for CPA", but "even though I'm busy studying for CPA". Aug 3 '18 at 15:25
  • yeah @jason i agree with you but why did you add just after besides?
    – user80037
    Aug 3 '18 at 15:25
  • @user80037 The use of just emphasizes that studying, on it's own, isn't sufficient for passing the exam in this case. It also helps with the possible ambiguity of besides meaning however. (It wouldn't be mistaken for that after some slight parsing, but just removes the need for any parsing at all.) I removed the italics however. I hadn't meant that it should actually be in italics . . . Aug 3 '18 at 15:36
  • oh but it wasn't about passing the exam. when I corrected his grammar in a comment he said. I guess I need some grammar lessons despite studying for cpa. that passing the exams thing was my assumption that maybe he meant that he still needs some grammar lessons despite being involved in a process(the questions in the cpa exam) that requires good understanding of grammar... (he was trying to be ironic i guess)
    – user80037
    Aug 3 '18 at 15:43

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